kayaking on Loch Leven near Glencoe, Scotland, 2018

kayaking on Loch Leven near Glencoe, Scotland, 2018

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Avenue of the Flags

Each Memorial Day and Veterans Day, a sleepy cemetery on Broad St. comes alive, its gravel roads lined in a sea of red, white and blue.

842 flags will adorn Orange Grove-Graceland Cemetery tomorrow. A Lake Charles tradition, Avenue of the Flags began in 1983 by the Sons of the American Revolution (SAR). They consider this event to be the largest display of veterans’ flags in the United States. Also called memorial or casket flags, these flags are given to relatives at a veteran’s funeral. Families often donate these flags to SAR. Their collection grows each year. SAR numbers every flag and records information about each veteran so visitors can locate individual veterans’ flags on a cemetery map.

If you’re in the Lake Charles area tomorrow, it’s worth the drive through. Makes one’s heart swell with patriotic pride.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Flashback Friday -- Natchitoches, La.

We're heading to Natchitoches tomorrow to bring Eric home for the summer. So I thought I'd share my 2010 post on this charming town. Updates: Mighty Max Superdogs no longer exists. And Eric only has one year of high school left.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Starks Mayhaw Festival

What the heck is a mayhaw?

I’ve learned so many new words since moving to Louisiana. Lagniappe (a little something extra), coolie (not even certain how to spell that one – couldn’t find it in the dictionary, but it’s basically a drainage ditch), and mayhaw, just to name a few.

I remember my first trip to the farmers’ market here in Lake Charles. A sweet woman proudly stood behind her display of jams and jellies. I saw Mayhaw Jelly. I’d never heard of a mayhaw. I asked, “What’s a mayhaw?” I think she told me it’s some kind of berry. I guess that answer must have satisfied my curiosity at the time. Naturally, I bought some mayhaw jelly. It’s hard to describe the taste. Sweet is all I can come up with.

Five years later, and I still didn’t really know what a mayhaw was. Does it grow on a tree or a bush? What does a mayhaw look like and taste like?

So when I saw advertisements for the Starks Mayhaw Festival this past weekend, I thought, Here’s my chance to find out what a mayhaw is.

Starks is a teeny little town west and a bit north of Lake Charles, near the Texas border, about a 40 minute drive. When we saw the carnie rides, we knew we’d found the place. The festival is a small affair, but not lacking in interesting sights.

This dog apparently sells ride tickets.

How many tickets ya want, lady, she seemed to bark. If they’d had my favorite ride, the Scrambler, I might have bought some. We called it the Merry Mixer when I was a kid. But they didn't have it.

Then I saw this woman carrying the cutest monkey. She said he’s a marmoset. He was shy and the camera seemed to scare him. I could only take his photo if I petted his head at the same time.

Several vendors at the festival sold various jellies, including, of course, mayhaw.

But I prefer jams. We found only one vendor who sold mayhaw jam. His name is David Griffis from Buna, Texas, and he told me everything I wanted to know about mayhaws. They are similar but somewhat smaller than a crabapple, so they do grow on trees. And I assume they are quite tart like crabapples. Mr. Griffis says he uses four cups of sugar for every six jars of jelly. He gave us a sample of the mayhaw jam. It’s good. Sweet. And he makes a mean blackberry jam, too. We bought a jar of each.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

In Search of the Pink Dolphin

I belong to a terrific club called the Pelican Paddlers. We're a kayaking group really, but occasionally, some folks with canoes come along. Early this morning, we went south to Cameron and put in at the ship channel by the ferry. Dolphins love to hang out around there. And I wanted to see some. Specifically, I wanted to see the 'pink dolphin.' Several years ago, boaters in that area started sighting this rare albino. I know a few people who have seen it. I've heard it is one of only a few known albino dolphins in the world.

We paddled around Monkey Island. I asked why they call it that. No one knew.

We saw pogie boats, which are blue-bottomed vessels that catch a type of fish called menhaden. These fish, also called pogies, are rich in oil, and are processed for industrial lubricants. The waste is used for fertilizer. If you drive past a pogie plant, it smells really bad. I learned all this today.

We also saw dozens of shrimp boats.

Can you guess what this boat with the tall black yellow-tipped poles is for?

It goes out into the Gulf and the poles go straight down to the seabed. It’s a platform. Probably something to do with oil rigging. I learned that today, too.

Yes, we did see some dolphins. They were a good distance from us (I was hoping one would come right beside my boat and I could pet it -- other kayakers say they've experienced that -- but it didn't happen) and we did not see a lot of them. It's also very difficult to get a photo of them. If you look closely, you can see a fin here.

And no, sadly, we did not see the pink dolphin. Not this time.

Do you have a kayak or an interest in paddling? Come join us! We paddle every Wednesday evening during DST at 6:00 p.m. from the I-210 beach kayak put-in. And occasionally on Saturday mornings.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Johnson Bayou School and Library

Southwest Louisiana has been hit hard by hurricanes in the past seven years, and none harder than coastal Cameron Parish. First, Hurricane Rita in 2005, then Ike in 2008. My friend and fellow children’s writer Tommie Townsley recently made a school visit, as children’s writers are wont to do, to Johnson Bayou. Their school was completely destroyed during Hurricane Ike, including the library and all their books. Four years later, Tommie discovered they still have very few books in their library. She decided to do something about that. Through friends and our writers’ group, Southwest Louisiana Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Guild (SWLA CBWI) -- whew, I have to think so hard every time I speak or write that name --we held a book drive and collected boxes and boxes of books for these children. It’s a small school. Grades Pre-K through 12th all on one campus – all 62 kids. Since Hurricane Ike, they attend classes in temporary buildings. A new school is still 2-3 years in the future.

Where’s Johnson Bayou, some of you may wonder? Head south to Holly Beach, hang a right, and drive west down the coastal road about 14 miles. It's about an hour from Lake Charles. Because of the hurricanes, the population there has dwindled drastically.

Today several of us in the Guild delivered the books to this school. Our trip began at the new Johnson Bayou Public Library. Hurricane Rita destroyed the original library in 2005. For six years, they operated out of a mobile library. This building was dedicated in February 2011.

It’s small but cozy, charming and delightful. This is the children’s section.

This is the Gulf of Mexico view from their balcony.

Once at the school, a dozen or so of the older boys greeted us and unloaded the many boxes. We were then welcomed by cheers and applause before a heartwarming appreciation assembly. The kids seemed to be truly excited and grateful for our donation.

We were treated to snacks and sweet tea at the school and a delicious lunch at the library. Thanks so much to the staff and students at Johnson Bayou School and the library staff for their warm wonderful hospitality! We had a great time!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother's Day 2012 at the Pintail Wildlife Drive

So, it’s Mother's Day. The one day of the year I am guaranteed to do most anything I want to do. Today was a beautiful day, so naturally, I wanted to be outdoors. I wanted to explore a park I’ve never been to before. I wanted to walk. I wanted to find wildflowers. I settled on the Pintail Wildlife Drive, a 3-mile car path through marsh grass in Cameron Parish. I’ve been there before, several times. But they recently added a boardwalk, and I hadn’t been there since its completion. Pintail is part of the scenic Creole Nature Trail.

We saw plenty of wildflowers.

Pintail is a great place to bird watch.

My favorite wading bird is the roseate spoonbill. I was thrilled to see a couple spoonbills at Pintail today!

It’s a great place to spy alligators, too! We initially kept tabs on how many we saw, but quickly lost count.

How did you spend your Mother's Day?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Flashback Friday -- Opelousas

One of my favorite things to do, since moving to Louisiana, is go to a town I've never been to before (of course, there are plenty of those for a newcomer), pretend I'm a tourist (actually, I don't have to pretend) and explore! Last year, around this time, I went to Opelousas, La. Wonderful little town. Read about my trip here.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Tour LaFitte 2012

Saturday morning’s ride was a cyclist’s dream. Warm, but not too hot, at least not initially. No threat of rain, but just enough cloud cover to hide the sun early in the ride and prevent it from heating up quickly. A light breeze fanned us but didn’t push us backwards when riding south into the wind. Bob and I pedaled the 40 mile loop – long enough to make it interesting but short enough to keep it fun.

We and our shadow.

Louisiana road kill. Or maybe he couldn’t find his way back to the cooley and died of dehydration.

Feeling good at the first rest stop.

For those of you good at “What’s Different About This Picture” puzzles, yes I changed shirts. My friends Dean and Keyon Bernal own a Nissan dealership in Silsbee, Texas and had team jerseys made.
For more information on Tour LaFitte, click here. We had a good ride. In hindsight, we could have done 50 miles. Maybe another year . . .

Friday, May 4, 2012

Flashback Friday -- Tour LaFitte

I've been riding in the Tour LaFitte on even years -- 2008, 2010, 2012, just a coincidence -- since moving here in 2007. This year, I've talked my husband, who once upon a time was an avid bicyclist, into going with me. We'll ride our tandem bike -- so much fun! The weatherman says it will be nice, but hot. Bob and I would strive for the 50 mile ride, but honestly, 40 is more realistic. We just don't get out there and ride like we used to.

Photos to follow in a post next week.

Here's my post from 2012.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Love Bugs

Prior to moving to Louisiana, I thought a love bug was a Volkswagen Beetle named Herbie. Little did I know. Love bugs are peculiar insects that make an appearance here along the Gulf coast biannually in the spring and fall. Each love bug season lasts around a month or so. They waft through the air en masse and live only 4-5 days. They’re almost always conjoined in awkward pairs – mating, of course. But hey, if you only lived a few days, what would you do?

Love bugs are completely harmless. Unless you are a car. They congregate and perish on front ends and windshields, apparently in massive suicide pacts. Their carcasses contain an acid that purportedly pits and pocks car paint. And they stick like super glue.

Love bug season is just about over for this spring. Now all that’s left to do is wash the car.